Engaged and motivated employees tend to show a greater willingness to tackle change and challenges. So what steps can a busy leader take to keep their staff full of energy and reduce their stress and fatigue? Director Anita Douglas investigates.
The workload of a leader can be overwhelming.
They are a guardian of strategy and vision, overseer of delivery, developer of people and owner of all of the associated burden. On top of all that, in 2019, leaders are increasingly required to demonstrate that they are developing their employees’ mental wellbeing and resilience, as well as just their role-based skills.
For some, doing even more in the quest to support their teams is a step too far, and an unnecessary expense. This scenario always reminds me of one of my favourite quotes, attributed to Peter Baeklund:
CFO asks CEO: “What happens if we invest in our people and they leave?”
CEO: “What happens if we don’t and they stay?”
To ignore the power and opportunity of improved resilience is a short-term view. Yes, there may be a cost associated but the long-term payback for the business is huge, as I have already touched on in other blogs in this series.
For those forward-thinking leaders who are bought into the idea, a common question is: “What can I do?”. One of the easiest first steps to take is addressing some of the environmental influences that fatigue staff. The things that rob your employees of the crucial energy they need when dealing with a problem. Here are just a few suggestions.
1. Authenticity – be genuine and transparent
Working for someone who is unpredictable and secretive can be a stressful experience. Employees often feel the need to be guarded and can be unsure how circumstance and performance may influence their manager on any given day.
2. Recognition and value
This inevitably leads to heightened stress, sapping energy and focus. Conversely, when individuals see their leaders acting transparently and consistently regardless of circumstance, it makes them more inclined to engage at times of challenge, rather than attempt to hide the issue.
Promote a culture of recognition that values the contributions of your employees. Research has consistently shown the power of recognition over simple financial compensation. In an environment where individuals and teams are recognised for the value they add, staff are far more likely to ‘double down’ when times get tough and work through the challenge.
Be relentless in your pursuit of fairness. Secret corridor chats, obvious favourites and bias, no matter how conscious or unconscious, will disengage people. Disengaged staff are far less likely to effectively deal with problems when they emerge. Instead, they prefer to let someone else take the strain.
4. Develop a positive culture around failure
Failure and blame are inextricably linked. Even the threat of repercussions when something goes wrong is enough to trigger a stress reaction in some, so you should look to take away that personal risk factor for employees.
That’s not to say that dereliction of duty is not without consequence. It is absolutely okay to define how those who shirk responsibility will be dealt with. Instead, this is about giving staff the confidence and space to make choices and try things out in the pursuit of success. They should be able to do so, safe in the knowledge that if it doesn’t work out, or ‘fails’, they will not be ‘blamed’. Instead, clinically analyse what happened, learn from it and use that knowledge to finesse your approach next time.
5. Encourage positive relationships
This seems so obvious but it is worth re-stating. In the same way that you, as a leader, benefit from the positive relationships at home and at work, so do your staff. You can lead by example here, by simply engaging with your staff and being approachable. Get to know people, understand their personal motivation and encourage the same amongst your teams. When people have an outlet in times of difficulty, it really can make the difference between being swallowed up by it all or getting on with it and finding a way through the issue.
These actions are clearly more focused on the environment in which your employees work, rather than on the employees themselves. But we know that environmental factors play a large part in stress and anxiety levels. We also know that engaged, motivated staff tend to demonstrate a greater tolerance for handling change and challenge.
The point here is that these are all areas that you can influence or improve as a leader, in order to leave your teams with maximum energy levels just when they need it most.
Read more: Leading well in tough times